Grumman TBM Avenger operated by the Commemorative Air Force

“Chambers Field”, the Naval Air Station facility located within Naval Station Norfolk (NAVSTANOR), celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the flying component of the base with a fairly big but somewhat “secret” air show on Saturday, July 15th, 2017. It was a part of the overall celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the massive Naval Base in Norfolk known as “Naval Station Norfolk”. The single-day air show was one of a number of both public and private events celebrating 100 years of naval service that the Naval Station has provided since its founding in 1917. Later, on October 21st, the Base opened up a full-deck carrier – the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) – and a number of surface ships for public viewing; kind of like a “Mini-Airshow” on the Flight Deck and Hanger Bay of the new Carrier, called “Fleet-Fest 2017”. However, as great as the Air Show was with almost 30 airplanes on the ramps, it was kind of a “private” air show. There was no Blue Angels, and it was not really publicized much in the Virginia Beach – Hampton Roads area. The public had access only between 11AM and 4PM and only about 5,000 people showed up. But if you like Navy planes, it was certainly the place to be for a great static and flying show. I’d say it was a top notch “Secret Air Show” for sure. Stand by for some cool Navy air show details later…

Some of the aircraft at the 100th Anniversary Air Show at Chambers Field in 2017

Grumman E-2D Hawkeye


Naval Station Norfolk, (IATA: NGU), is a United States Navy Base in Norfolk Virginia. It supports naval forces in the United States Fleet Forces Command, those operating in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and even the Indian Ocean. The full installation occupies about 4 miles of waterfront space and 11 miles of pier and wharf space of the Hampton Roads peninsula known as Sewall’s Point. It is the world’s largest naval station, with the largest concentration of US Navy forces with 75 ships along 14 piers and with over 134 assigned aircraft and 11 aircraft hangers at Chambers Field. Chambers Field consists of two heliports, six helipads, and a single 8,400 foot runway and recently has been home to C-2, C-9, C-12 and E-2 fixed wing aircraft and H-3, H-46, H-53, MV-22 and H-60 based helicopters. Chambers is divided into four operational areas designated as Landing Field (LF), Vertical Pad (V), Sea Plane (SP) and Landing Plane (LP). Nearby controlled airspace and facility restrictions preclude NAS Norfolk from serving as the home station for tactical air units and since the 1950’s nearby NAS Oceana to the east was selected to become Master Jet Base status to serve that purpose.

Boeing MV-22

The Port Services controls more than 3,100 ship movements annually as they arrive and depart their berths based at Norfolk. Many ships are specifically involved with current Naval Aviation Operations. There are currently four Carrier Strike Groups based here: CSG-2, 8, 10 and 12. There are six full deck carriers assigned: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69); USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72); USS George Washington (CVN-73); USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75); USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). There are six assigned helicopter carriers or Amphibious Assault Ships; USS Wasp (LHD-1); USS Kearsarge (LHD-3); USS Batan (LHD-5); USS San Antonio (LPD-17); USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19); and the USS Arlington (LPD-24).

The “LHD” is an 844 foot Landing Helicopter Dock assault vessel with a water level well dock for Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicles (LCAC’s) as well as traditional surface landing craft. The LHD has an 800 foot full flight deck for STOLV fighters (AV-8B Harriers and soon the new F-35B Lightning II jump jets). It can also take on an assortment of helicopters as the mission requires, including MH-60 Sea Hawks, MH-53E Sea Dragons, CH-53E Marine Super Stallions, UH-1Y Venoms, AH-1W Super Cobras and MV-22B Ospreys.

The “LPD” is a 684 foot special amphibious warfare ship called a Landing Platform Dock that embarks, transports and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions. It also has a water level well dock for landing craft but only a third of the ships length or less than 300 feet is. flight deck for limited helicopter operations; the rest is a traditional cabin structure for personnel, a vehicle bay and a well deck for amphibious landing craft. The Norfolk LPD’s usually carry one of the following groupings: two CH-53E Super Stallion helos; two MV-22B Osprey tilt rotor aircraft; four CH-46 Sea Knight helos; four AH-1W SeaCobras or four UH-1 Huey types.

The bigger LHD can carry more aircraft including a typical total complement of: 3 x MH-60S Night Hawk helos; 4 x CH-53E Super Stallion helos; 6 x AV-8B Harrier attack fighters (or F-35B STOLV’s); 3 x UH-1N Huey’s; 4 x AH-1Z Vipers and now a number of MV-22B VTOL Osprey tilt rotor aircraft as required. Of course these 12 aircraft carrier ships are never in NS Norfolk at the same time; some are deployed, some are in maintenance and some are in crew work-ups.

Grumman C-2 Greyhound

NAS Chambers Field air operations conducts over 100,000 flight operations each year with an average of 275 flights per day or one every six minutes. Over 150,000 passengers and 264,000 tons of mail and cargo depart annually on Air Mobility Command aircraft (C-5, C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft) or other AMC-Chartered aircraft from the AMC Terminal here. Chambers used to be a independent Naval Air Station but is now a Detachment of the nearby Oceana Naval Air Station. Chambers Field currently has five types of aircraft assigned: A) The Grumman Hawkeye E-2C and E-2D Carrier Airborne Early Warning Air Surveillance Aircraft. The five E-2C squadrons include: VAW-120 Greyhawks, a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VAW-121 Bluetails; VAW-123; VAW-123 Screwtops; VAW-124 Bear Aces and VAW-126 Seahawks.

Grumman C-2A COD (right) of VRC-40 posing with it’s predecessor, a Grumman C-1A COD

B) The Grumman C-2A Greyhound Carrier-Onboard-Delivery (COD) aircraft. There is currently only one C-2 Squadron assigned to Chambers Field – Fleet Logistics Squadron 40 (VRC-40), Rawhides. C) The Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon heavy lift and mine sweeping helo for Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadrons. Squadrons assigned include: HM-12 Sea Dragons; HM-14 Vanguard; and HM-15 Blackhawks. D) The Sikorsky MH-60R/S Seahawk / Knighthawk. The squadrons assigned to Chambers include Helicopter Sea Combat Squadrons including: HSC-2 Fleet Angels (FRS unit); HSC-5 Night Dippers; HSC-7 Dusty Dogs; HSC-9 Tridents; HSC-11 Dragon Slayers; HSC-22 Sea Knights; HSC-26 Chargers and HSC-28 Dragon Whales. E) The Boeing MV-22B Osprey with a special USMC Reserve squadron assigned: VMM-744 “Wild Goose”.

Chambers based aircraft have a number of assignments including: Fleet Replacement Squadrons; Carrier Air Wing Support; Forward Expeditionary Deployment; and Amphibious Ready Group Deployment. Complementing the assigned aircraft at Chambers are a number of transport aircraft visitors and some regular special visitors from down south including: P-3C Orion’s and P-8A Poseidon’s up from Jacksonville, E-6M Mercury’s over from Tinker AFB, the C-40A Clipper over from Oceana, Marine MV-22A Tiltrotor Osprey’s up from New River and of course an occasional F/A-18 Hornet over from Oceana. Then you have the occasional heavy lifters coming in to the Passengers Terminal and the Cargo bays – C-17’s, C-5’s and C-130’s and chartered civilian carriers. Chambers was redesigned after WW2 and now has one north-south runway – 10/28 at 8,400 feet – that extends almost to I-64 just before the Hampton Tunnel. Low inbounds from the north have scared many a driver on normal low approaches into Chambers from the water’s edge.

Grumman F-14 Tomcat at the NADEP (Naval Aviation Depot) in 1993

Chambers used to have a massive Depot Maintenance mission up to the F-14 Tomcat days. It was called the Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) and was later called the Naval Aviation Depot owning as many as 175 buildings on base. It repaired and updated major airframes and complex electronic and aircraft computer systems. It was shut down in 1996 as a result of a BRAC mission redistribution and budget reduction effort by Washington. Its’ last upgrades were on F-14 and A-6 airframes.

Chambers also has huge helicopter ramps on the water’s edge with separate helo control towers. The E-2C/D and C-2A fixed wing ramps are separate and further to the west and also expansive. There are still a few seaplane ramps next to the helo ramp, a reminder of when heavy seaplanes were stationed here up until the 1950’s including, at the end of that mission, the Martin PBM3 Mariners and the Martin P5M-1 Marlins. There are regular Norfolk Naval Station Bus Tours all year long that leave from the Visitors Building on Hampton Boulevard (Rt-337) near the Main Gate. The one hour tour covers the entire base including a slow ride past the ships and the carriers and a ride into Hawkeye and Greyhound Country, and past the helo ramp, and the historical buildings that remain from the 1910’s, a reminder of when the area around Chambers Field hosted the Jamestown Exposition in June of 1907, a kind of World’s Fair with many classical architecture State Buildings.


Naval Air Station Norfolk started its flying roots by training aviators across the bay at Naval Air Station Detachment Curtis Field in nearby Newport News on May 19th, 1917. In October of 1917, all seven seaplanes in that unit were flown across the Jamestown River to the current Chambers Field site and each moored to stakes in the water until the first canvas hangers were constructed near the new seaplane ramps. A few of those original seaplane ramps still exist today reminiscent of the early use of seaplanes on the current E-2 and C-2 ramps and helo ramps of today. During WW1, Curtis (its’ original name) became a major training facility for pilots, ground crews and maintenance crews for the Curtis N9 Navy seaplane. Additional early aircraft based here included the Gallaudet D-4, the Curtis H-12, H-16 and HS-2L planes. By 1920 Chambers grew to 65 based aircraft plus a lighter-than-air division for Patrol Dirigibles and Balloons with large fixed Hangers. Commercial flying boats made regular flights to Washington and New York in the 1920’s.

Grumman A-6E Intruder undergoing rework at Norfolk’s Aviation Depot

A major Construction and Repair Division, was started at this time to be known as the Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) eventually expanding to 175 buildings after WW2, The repair facility, later called the Naval Aviation Depot, was closed in 1996 due to a BRAC Realignment. At the end they were doing major airframe and electronics repairs on F-14, A-6 and S-2 aircraft. After 1925, the Field increased to three runways in an asterisk center pattern with major new construction. With the perfection of arrestor cables and later catapult launch systems, carrier training became important at Chambers Field, with the construction of the first aircraft carrier in 1922, the USS Langley (CV-1) based at Norfolk. Additional carriers followed. In the late 1920’s early carrier aircraft, such as the Boeing F-3B fighter and the Vought OS-2 Corsair were based at Chambers. Later fighter planes would be towed down “CV Tow Way Road” to the two carrier piers and lifted by crane to the flight deck of the carriers. It would be common to see Grumman TBM and General Motors TBF Avenger fighters proceeding under prop power down the streets from Chambers Field to get to the carrier piers for loading on to the flight decks. Now of course, the F/A-18’s fly out from Oceana to join up with the carrier already out in the Virginia Capes. Other fighters at Chambers in WW2 included: the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator, the Douglas SPD-3 Dauntless, the Grumman F4F Wildcats, F8F Bearcats, F6F Hellcats, SB2C Helldivers, Vought F4U Corsairs, Consolidated PB4Y (B-24) Liberators and later Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune patrol bombers.

Besides carrier support and aviation training in WW2, Chambers Field also had an anti-submarine patrol mission, initially enforcing the 600-mile Neutrality Zone and later escorting in convoy patrols off the Chesapeake Coast with Patrol Squadrons using OS2U Kingfisher, PBY-5A Catalina’s, and later larger Martin P5M-1 Marlins and Martin PBM3 Mariners in the Atlantic. The patrol squadrons would be later transferred to nearby NAS Chincoteague (now called Wallops Island NASA Flight Facility) and NAS Elizabeth City, NC, (now a big USCG air base). Then later in WW2, the “Old Chambers Field” with its three short runways was getting overloaded. There are photos in 1943 showing fighter planes parked everywhere. By 1943, the old Norfolk NAS had become the hub for a series of new Outlying Landing Fields (OLF’s) including Chincotegue, Oceana, Pungo, Creeds and Fentress, all close to Chambers. Pieces of the old runways still exist at Pungo and Creeds and can be seen from Princess Anne Road. Pungo is near Jerry Yagen’s “Military Aviation Museum” and is now a Navy Radio Tower. Creeds is a little further so south and is now a Police car training track. NALF Fentress is now an active Fleet Carrier Practice Landing field (FCLP) for simulated day and night carrier practice landing touch-and-goes. And of course NAS Oceana is the largest NAS east of the Rockies.

Boeing CH-46D “Phrog”

After WW2 and all through the Cold War and into the present, Chambers Field would host carrier airborne early warning E-2C/D squadrons, carrier on-board delivery C-2A squadrons, heavy MH-53E minesweeping helicopter squadrons and MH-60S Seahawk helicopter sea combat squadrons, and now a new USMC Reserve MV-22B Osprey squadron. Recently there were also C-9 Skytrain II, C-12 Huron, SH-3 Sea King, and CH-46 Sea Knight “Phrogs”, on base, as well well as MAC/AMC early and current active and chartered heavy haulers on base. And of course the usual Navy transient visitors. You could even get an occasional USCG HC-130J Super Herc, a HC-144A/B Ocean Sentry or an HC-27J Spartan up from EC. But the one thing you will NEVER see at Chambers Field is a F-22 Raptor over from Langley. Those guys always stay on their side of the River !!!

Aircraft at the 1993 Air Show at NAS Norfolk’s Chambers Field, and a visit to the NADEP too.


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